From the early days of the coronavirus crisis, we’ve seen data showing major racial disparities in many cities and states and reflected in polling about people’s lived experiences of the pandemic. The picture has been incomplete, though—and now that new data is helping to fill it in, it’s clear that yes, the racial inequities are huge just about wherever you look.
The New York Times sued the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to get federal data covering 640,000 infections in nearly 1,000 counties. The 974 counties for which the Times analyzed data include more than half the U.S. population. In those counties, Black and Latino people have been infected at three times the rate of white people, and have been nearly twice as likely to die.
Because the elder population in the U.S. is more white than among younger age groups, the disparities are most clear with comparisons within age groups. For instance, more than one in four Latino people who have died were younger than 60, while just 6% of white people who have died have been under 60.
The new data makes clear that this is not just about people of color being vulnerable to the most serious forms of the virus because they have underlying conditions. Focusing on that explanation “makes me angry, because this really is about who still has to leave their home to work, who has to leave a crowded apartment, get on crowded transport, and go to a crowded workplace, and we just haven’t acknowledged that those of us who have the privilege of continuing to work from our homes aren’t facing those risks,” Dr. Mary Bassett, the director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, told the Times.
Preexisting data back her up on those risks: 43% of Black and Latino workers are in the kinds of jobs that can’t be done remotely, compared with about one in four white workers. Latino people are twice as likely to live in close quarters as white people, and, as Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II put it: “You literally can’t isolate with one bathroom.” Black workers are also more likely than white workers to report having witnessed coronavirus-related retaliation by bosses.
And the new data shows that it’s not just that Black and Latino people who contract COVID-19 are dying at a higher rate than white people who contract COVID-19. They’re also more likely to get the virus to begin with—and that’s substantially because of the racial (and racist) disparities in the U.S. economy.
This data is still incomplete, and with increased testing and the new hot spots that have emerged since the time period the data covers (through the end of May), the picture may change somewhat. But it’s clear that this deadly pandemic is one more area where systemic racism is a killer.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.